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U.S. Embassy Prague participated in International Roma Day Celebrations
09-04-2009 - Press release

Czech Minister for Human Rights Michael Kocab (left) and U.S. Embassy delegation in Most (Photo Michal Štichaeur) On April 8, U.S. Embassy Prague participated in celebrations marking International Roma Day in two cities in Northern Bohemia, Chomutov and Most. U.S. Embassy delegation brought a videotaped message of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton marking International Roma Day.

The message was shown with a Czech voice over it at a gathering of Roma citizens. The U.S. Embassy delegation then moved to the city of Most where the message was presented at the opening of an exhibition called “Lost World” showing pictures of the original Czech Roma before WW II.

Full text of Secretary Clinton's message

“International Roma Day is an opportunity for us to call attention to the history, experiences, and human rights of Europe,s largest ethnic minority.

Promoting and protecting the rights of Roma has long been of personal interest to me, because I saw firsthand the plight of the Roma - particularly Romani women and children -when I visited Roma communities in Central and Eastern Europe as our country,s First Lady. As a member of the Helsinki Commission, I urged governments to do more to protect and promote the 10 million Roma who live in Europe.

Despite important progress that has been made in the past decade, many Roma still live on the margins of society. They continue to experience racial profiling, violence, discrimination, and other human rights abuses. Too often, they lack identity documents or citizenship papers, which excludes them from voting or social services and education - even employment opportunities that would enable them to participate more fully in the countries in which they live.

The United States is committed to protecting and promoting the human rights of Roma throughout our bilateral relations and our involvement in organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We believe governments do have a special responsibility to ensure that minority communities have the tools of opportunity that they need to succeed as productive and responsible members of society. So I urge governments throughout Europe to continue their efforts to address the plight of Roma, to end discrimination and ensure equality of opportunity in education and employment.

I am particularly concerned about Roma children being able to grow up and fulfill their own God-given potential. You know, Roma have a rich artistic and cultural heritage, which has left an indelible mark across Europe and the world.

It is in the interest of the larger European and global community to create conditions that maximize success for all of the people within our borders and beyond. I hope that events taking place at our embassies and missions around the world on International Roma Day will be one more step on the path to helping Roma reach a better and brighter future. And the United States stands ready to help make that a reality.

Thank you very much.”

International Roma Day

International Roma Day celebrates Romani culture and raises awareness of the issues facing the Romani people. April 8 has been set aside for the yearly observance since the time of the fourth World Romani Congress, held in Poland in 1990. The United States on this day also calls for respect of the human rights of Roma.

Professor Ian Hancock of the University of Texas at Austin, a leading American Roma scholar, says there have been Roma in North America since colonial days, when small numbers were brought from Britain to work in the plantations of Virginia, Barbados and Jamaica. Large numbers of Roma immigrants began coming to America in the late 19th century, propelled by wars and social turmoil in Europe.

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